Two times Emmy nominated The Battle for Mosul reveals the stark reality of Iraq’s offensive to rid the country ISIS.
As Iraqi journalist, Ghaith Abdul-Ahad enters the city that he knew as child, the narrative of the day is that ISIS are all but defeated. But the truth is very different. The battle is brutal, street by street, house by house. Nowhere is secure. An unprecedented wave of car and truck bombs is bringing Mosul and the men who are trying to retake it to their knees.
Ghaith and director Joshua Baker are embedded with Iraq’s elite special operation forces, who are at the tip of the spear. When they meet the unit’s commander inside the city, the significance of the battle becomes clear. The commander, known to this men as “Steel”, knows that the decisions that he makes in this fight will have an impact on the future of his country. He must balance limiting civilian casualties and winning their support - they are distrustful of his men due to historic abuses - with keeping his men alive, as they fight an enemy who is hiding amongst the population. If he loses the people of the city, he may win the battle but not the war.
As the commander's men pull off the frontline for the night, they relax and share videos that appear to show them torturing ISIS suspects. However, their sense of security is short lived, as the unit is hit by a massive truck bomb, that destroys the street, causing the house that Ghaith and Joshua are in to collapse. But it becomes clear in the aftermath that it is the civilians who have borne the brunt of the attack.
The city must be retaken, but now the battle is at a tipping point. Brutality may be met with brutality as those fighting ISIS struggle with the mounting losses. How the fight is conducted from here on, and what happens in its aftermath, will have a definitive impact on the future of Iraq, the region, and the west.